Book review: Once Dead, Twice Shy

Once Dead, Twice Shy
Neither here, nor there, dead but not gone - Once Dead, Twice Shy chronicles one girl's struggle to find out why she's being targeted by dark reapers.

Once Dead, Twice Shy by Kim Harrison (HarperCollins)

Madison Avery should be dead. But... she's not.

After being targeted and scathed by a dark reaper on her prom night, Madison manages to steal a mysterious amulet worn around the neck of her would-be-killer.

This amulet provides her with the illusion of having a body and connects her to this world, even though she isn't really alive.

Not quite sure why the dark reapers are after her, Madison isn't about to take things lying down; and besides... not knowing what your killer did with your body or where he may be hiding it, is enough to make any girl go on an epic search hunt for answers.

Stuck on earth, she gets a little help from a light reaper (who may or may not be a good guy), a very cute boy-crush named Josh and a cheeky and feisty guardian angel.

One thing is certain: If Madison wants to make it out alive, she will have to:

a) have all her wits about her
b) harness whatever power she may or may not possess now that she's in limbo - and
c) learn about the world of light and dark reapers very, very quickly if she wants to get the upper hand.

My thoughts:

Let me start off by asking you a question: Have you ever read a book and felt as if the book was missing an introduction?  No?

Well, this is one of those books.  

Once Dead, Twice Shy has been sitting on my shelf for a good couple of months now. Much as I liked the cover, there was always a deep-rooted and inexplicable reluctance that I have felt towards this reading this book. 

But, in an effort to make a dent in my ever-growing list of books that need to be read, I decided I'd start by getting this one out of the way. And while I'm glad I ended up reading the book, I can't say that it is a book that I really, really enjoyed.

For one, that feeling of the book missing an introduction haunted me throughout the entire novel and for the first 50 pages or so, I found myself thoroughly confused as to just what was happening in the book. Turns out that the feeling I had was right.

Apparently you actually have to read the Madison Avery and the Dim Reaper short story in the Prom Nights from Hell anthology if you actually want to get the gist of the history behind Madison's story.

I actually think this was a very, very bad idea.

I can't help but wonder how many people (including myself) have jumped into this book without knowing about or having read the short story in the Prom Nights from Hell anthology. 

According to another reviewer, the short story actually sets the stage for Once Dead, Twice Shy, so if I were you, I would get my hands on the Prom Nights from Hell anthology before dipping into this one. 

Even though she does recap to an extent, I was still somewhat confused and felt as if there were a lot of key points missing in the actual summarising of just what happened to Madison.

The tone of writing is considerably light and has none of that overwhelming teenage angst  that so many novels subsist on (I love teen angst, but am not always in the mood for the heavier reads, so the tone of the novel is definitely one of the key aspects that kept me from tossing this book aside).

I loved that it was such a fast-paced read and was pleasantly surprised by the amount of humour that was sprinkled throughout the novel. 

Madison as a character, while definitely not one of my favourites, was still a pretty cool  and spunky character, even though at times she didn't come across as being all that developed. (I'm guessing that we'll probably get to see more of her growth throughout the book series)

What I did find a problem with, is that sometimes Madison came across as being almost restrained for someone who wears t-shirts and shoes with skull crosses. And while I'm not necessarily a fan of excessive cussing in YA novels, Kim Harrison almost seems to censor Madison. I found it so at odds with the spunky, punk-rock image that Madison is portrayed as.

I am aware that I am proving myself to be guilty of stereotyping here (which I really don't want to do), but the feisty, skull-cross wearing girl is, for me, almost supposed to swear - and not substitute those cussing words with phrases like "Son of a dead puppy." 

Admittedly, I found this amusing at first, but it does happen throughout of the novel, and for me, it just didn't ring true to the kind of character I thought she was.

Who really stood out for me in this novel though, was Grace, the guardian angel. I absolutely loved the way she was portrayed and I loved the fact that she kept on taunting Madison in limerick sing-song mode. She really made me giggle like mad.

She's sweet, funny and not-seen by everyone which results in some amusing situations with Madison appearing as if she's talking to her self. I think, I'd continue with this series just because of her alone - I liked her that much.

And Josh?

Also not all that memorable of a character for me, but I think Kim did a great job at setting the scene for a developing relationship which has the possibility to bloom into a full-blown romance in the next books.

The world of dark and light reapers is certainly an interesting one and one that I haven't seen around to often, so I do think that I would, at some stage, get around to read the next instalment in the series. 

It really is just a pity that some of the ideas in the novel are executed a little poorly and tends to fall a little on the flat side.

Still, if you're looking for a break from the heavier and angst-ridden type of reads out there, then this one would offer a nice enough of a distraction.

It did for me.


Anonymous said…
Thanks for the review! I've been back and forth between wanting to read this and not wanting to. But, I think I'll give it a try. I really like the cover, too!
Jenny said…
I've read some of Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan witch series, and her worlds are always very complicated and I get easily confused at times and it sounds like it happens with this YA series as well. While I don't like to drown in explanation, it's nice to have some info upfront so you know what's going on! Really great review Tammy, you made some fabulous points, and I know the feeling of having an inexplicable reluctance to reading certain books, that's happened to me several times!
asamum said…
OMG I read that in Prom Nights from Hell and really wanted the story to continue. I saw this one in the library in Cardiff (yes I have to go in a library whereever I am) I am so requesting it now :D Thanks
Melissa said…
Awesome review! I've never even heard of this before, but it's definitely intriguing...thanks for bringing it to my attention! :)
Aisle B said…
Going to put this on on the back burner since some of the ideas fell flat... perhaps one day... until then... will leave this to the "NOT NOW, my FRiend" list.
Straylights said…
I do not like it when authors put short stories out because I usually never know about them! Then when I read the book and the characters talk about some event that happened in the short story I get so confused! And I strongly dislike anthology books. Usually I end up liking only 2 stories out of the 7 or whatever and always feel so cheated lol!

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